By Michelle Richardson
Special to the AFRO
On March 2, in his fourth trial Keith Davis, Jr. was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the murder of a Pimlico security guard in 2015.
Prosecutors tried Davis three separate times unsuccessfully for the murder of Kevin Jones before a new jury convicted him last summer of second-degree murder. The Davis case became a mission for some social activists in Baltimore, who have called on State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to cease the repeated prosecutions.
Keith Davis, Jr. (Photo Courtesy of fundrazr.com and Twitter)
Davis’ public defender asked the judge to hand down a sentence of 15 years; prosecutors and Jones’ family requested the maximum of 50.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Sylvester Cox took note of Davis’ many supporters, but still handed down the maximum penalty under the law.
“Two families are destroyed,” said. “One being the victim’s, one being the defendant’s.”
Seidel read aloud a letter from Jones’ aunt, the woman who raised him. Jones allegedly began work as a teenager at nearby Pimlico Race Course. His aunt told the judge that she kept close watch of him. Jones’ mother had died young.
“I made a promise to my sister, who I loved, that I would raise Kevin right and I would protect him,” Gloria Hill wrote. “I feel like I failed.”
Davis was convicted on evidence that his clothing matched that worn by the killer in surveillance footage, that cellphone records placed him in the area around the time of the killing, and that police found him with the murder weapon. His public defender argued that officers planted the gun to cover their tracks after shooting him. Police testified that they saw Davis raise a handgun towards them.
Police lab technicians testified that they found Davis’ fingerprints on the gun. Firearms analysts said they test-fired the weapon — a distinctive target pistol — and found it matched shell casings around Jones’ body. Levi dismissed the ballistics match as “junk science.”
Assistant Public Defender Deborah Levi presented the defense theory that police chased Davis, mistakenly thought he was armed and opened fire. They shot at him 30 times, hitting him in his face, neck and arm. He was grievously wounded.
“Mr. Davis is an innocent man,” she said. “He stands here today convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.”
Levi argued that on Friday and Monday that Davis deserves a new trial.
Cox denied her requests for a fifth trial, saying he found the evidence supported Seidel’s closing arguments. Levi pledged to appeal.
Over the years, Davis’ case has drawn widespread attention in Baltimore. His case has been explored in a true-crime podcast. A group of activists known as “Team Keith” have taken up his defense, holding marches and rallies in the street and poring over the evidence. They packed the courtroom and wrote enough letters of support to fill a booklet for the judge.
“It’s a campaign, and I’m asking your honor not to be swayed because they’re going to be the loudest voice in the courtroom,” Seidel said.
Kelly Davis, the wife of Keith Davis, has emerged as a vocal critic of Mosby and fierce advocate for her husband. She started law school to “decrease the number of Keith Davis Juniors in this world,” she told the judge.
“As long as there is breath in my body, I will continue to fight. I will continue to organize. I will continue to advocate, until my husband walks across the threshold of my home,” Davis said staring at Seidel as she addressed the court.
Mosby did not attend the sentencing hearing, but she issued a statement afterward.
“This case epitomizes my office’s perseverance and steadfast commitment to stay the course in the pursuit of justice for the Jones’ family in securing a lengthy sentence appropriately matched to this heinous and vile murder,” she said.